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Pallotti thrives with innovative programs

Katy Robinson won first place at the Shakespeare Monologue Competition.
Katy Robinson won first place at the Shakespeare Monologue Competition.(Courtesy Photo)

Students at St. Vincent Pallotti High School have been busy this year studying engineering, performing acts of service and excelling in the arts.

A nascent engineering and computer science program at Pallotti officially launched this academic year after three years of intense planning. Since the fall, students have feasted on pancakes they made with a 3-D printer, created robots for local tournaments and used professional design software to build kinetic art, among other projects.

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The goal is to offer interested students a certificate program that will make them competitive applicants to the nation’s top undergraduate engineering and computer science schools. The program, similar to the long-established Pallotti Arts Academy, now has about 65 students enrolled in its specialized courses. About one-third of them are freshmen, who will be eligible to complete the full four-year program as necessary upper-level classes are added one year at a time.

“The goal of the program is, yes, to teach the hard skills of engineering, but also to teach soft skills related to problem solving, documentation and communication,” said Michael Cotter, the Pallotti teacher in charge of the program, which has yet to be branded with an official name.

The school has plotted out a coursework schedule that will see it introduce additional Advanced Placement, engineering, computer integrated manufacturing and digital electronics courses over the next four years. The curriculum is guided by programming offered by Project Lead The Way, a national group that helps schools create educational “pathways” in STEM fields. Some students may be eligible to earn college credit.

Students benefit from hands-on projects that allow them to put their traditional math and science skills to work in real-world applications, Cotter said. There is a professional advantage to the program, he observed, as well as a personal one, as students are challenged by problems, tasked with team work and forced to persevere through inevitable difficulties.

“Students are making things all the time,” he said. “It reinforces the other coursework they’re doing and creates a positive feedback loop.”

Another positive creation at Pallotti is its Pack and Pray event, scheduled for April 4. Dozens of Pallotti students, teachers and community members will gather that day to pack 40,000 meals that will be distributed to needy families in developing countries through Cross Catholic Outreach. The school will work to measure, fill and organize thousands of bags of Vitafood meal packs, which are designed to meet the needs of severely malnourished individuals. The Pack and Pray event, now a regular fixture on the Pallotti calendar, costs $10,000 to order enough supplies for 40,000 meals. Monetary donations are accepted and can be made by contacting Campus Minister Jessica Haning at jhaning@pallottihs.org.

What’s done is done, and what’s done is Katy Robinson’s first place win at the Shakespeare Monologue Competition held March 4 at the Madeira School in McLean, Va. Robinson, a Pallotti sophomore, performed a Lady Macbeth monologue and Sonnet 116 to best 13 other students from around the Washington, D.C. region in an oratorical bout in honor of the Bard. As good luck would have it, Robinson will enjoy an all-expenses paid trip to New York, courtesy of sponsor, The English Speaking Union, to participate in the national competition in late April.

Pallotti Early Learning Center at St. Mary of the Mills will be holding its Open House on Wednesday, March 20, from 9 to 11 a.m. at 800 Main St. Registration for the 2019-2020 preschool programs will take place at this time. Please call 301-776-6471 for more information.

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Pallotti Early Learning Center will also bring back its Summer Fun Program for children currently in kindergarten through fourth grade. Daily activities will include games, arts and crafts and swimming. Weekly themes and field trips will add to the summer fun. Registration information is available on location.

Tickets are on sale now for the Laurel Historical Society’s gala on Saturday, April 13. The event will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. at the Doubletree Inn, 15101 Sweitzer Lane. Tickets are $100 for LHS members and $110 for non-LHS members and are available for purchase online at laurelhistoricalsociety.org.

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